Is it a hawk or an owl? Is it an owl or a hawk? It’s the Northern Hawk Owl! Aptly named for their hawk-like appearance, these unique birds are actually owls. Northern Hawk Owls resemble hawks with their long, tapered tails, smaller heads, and even their behavior. These owls fly with a mix of slow wing beats and long glides, much like hawks. They are often seen perching like hawks too- on the tops of tall trees, often near clearings- always watching for their favorite food: voles. However, because populations of voles and other small mammals fluctuate greatly, so too does the appearance of Northern Hawk Owls. Though normally found in far northern regions, Hawk Owls are considered nomadic, dispersing from their normal range when local vole populations crash. Northern Hawk Owls tend to inhabit areas far from cities and towns, but be a good observer and who knows? That next hawk you see gliding over the fields in search of tasty rodents might not be a hawk at all. It just might be a Northern Hawk Owl!
Maps provided by The Birds of North America Online and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.